Local SEMAT association seeks software engineering standardisation
Software engineering is a term describing the professional process of creating applications according to accepted standards and methodologies. To date, the methodologies and standards used by developers have not only been flexible, but have changed as the tools and understanding of software engineering requirements have evolved.
Director of the Johannesburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) at Wits University, Prof. Barry Dwolatzky, says: "In many ways, software engineering has the characteristics of a fashion industry. Techniques and methods compete for the attention of practitioners. Every time a new method emerges, it claims to provide exciting new solutions to the difficult problem of delivering software. In spite of this, our industry still struggles to meet expectations."
In an attempt to address this shortcoming, in 2009, Ivar Jacobson, Bertrand Meyer and Richard Soley launched an initiative called SEMAT (Software Engineering Method and Theory) to reshape software engineering in a way that qualifies as a rigorous discipline. BBD's Tony Van der Linden explains that the vision of SEMAT is to "refound software engineering based on a kernel of widely-agreed elements, extensible for specific uses, addressing both technology and people issues".
As an experienced software engineering firm, BBD supports the vision of SEMAT and hosted the launch of the South African chapter of the SEMAT Association earlier this year. At the event, Van der Linden was elected as chairperson.
Van der Linden sees the goals of SEMAT as vital to the industry and believes the organisation could hold the key to understanding and overcoming some of the problems in the software engineering field. "This is an opportunity to give the South African software engineering community a voice in the international market. We have generally been consumers of software engineering methodologies in the past, but I believe we can become contributors to new thinking and have an impact globally. SEMAT is a crucial step in the right direction as it will allow us to reflect on how we engineer software in South Africa.
"The main aim of the chapter is to promote the vision of SEMAT in South Africa and to act as a channel in transporting SEMAT information and deliberations to the local software engineering community. It is also our responsibility as leaders in the industry to critically review SEMAT information, develop SEMAT-based education and training, and to promote research and collaboration of relevance to the initiative."
Dwolatzky adds that the JCSE supports the launch of a SEMAT chapter in South Africa, which is only the third chapter in the world, as it supports the goal of software engineering "to define practices and methods that will improve our ability to develop high-quality software in a predictable and repeatable way".
Having established the local chapter, Van der Linden says there will be a number of interesting and insightful events held on a regular basis.